Many people including Tunde Folawiyo may enjoy listening to soul music; many fans would be familiar with Memphis soul, a subgenre which developed during the sixties and seventies. As its name suggests, its birthplace was the city of Memphis, Tennessee. Featuring drums, melodic brass instruments and the organ, this particular type of soul has a unique sound which is easily distinguishable from other subgenres.
Many attribute the development and growth of Memphis soul to a record label called Stax Records. Founded in 1957 by Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart, the two were skilled at spotting talented musicians, and managed to find and sign a whole host of singers from within the Memphis area. Despite their humble surroundings (the recording studio was in an old converted theatre), Axton and Stewart managed to record several hit singles soon after they opened their doors; these included ‘Cause I love you’ by Carla and Rufus Thomas, as well as ‘Last Night’ by Mars-Keys.
Over the course of the next few years, the label continued to record Memphis soul music and launched the careers of those they worked with. Many world famous musicians recorded in their studio; from Otis Reading and Issac Hayes, to Wilson Picket, Johnnie Taylor and Eddie Floyd. Taylor was particularly successful, and would eventually become one of the most prominent and respected Memphis soul musicians in the world.
His career began when he joined the Soul Stirrers as the replacement for Sam Cooke. However, after a couple of years, Taylor, like many other artists at the time, chose to leave gospel music behind, and focus on secular music. It was during this period of time that his interest in Memphis soul began to grow. After spending much of his early career performing as an independent musician, he eventually followed in Sam Cooke’s footsteps, and signed with a label called Sar. In 1966, he joined Stax, and fully immersed himself in Memphis soul, releasing hit singles such as ‘I’ve got to love somebody baby’ and ‘I had a dream’.
Whilst much of this subgenre’s growth is associated with Stax Records, there was another label which also contributed to it; Hi Records. When it was first established, it focused primarily on rockabilly music; however as time went on and this type of music became less and less popular, the label’s founders – Quentin Claunch, Bill Cantrell and Ray Harris – began to take more of an interest in soul, and more specifically, Memphis soul. Like Stax, they too launched the careers of many people within this subgenre, including Ann Peebles, a singer which virtually all soul music fans, including Tunde Folawiyo are likely to have heard of.